Friday, August 14, 2009

Digital Servitude

Congratulations! Like it or not, you're a part of the wireless revolution. What wonders can you now look forward to?

• You'll probably be involved in a cell phone-related car accident. The roads are now jammed with teenagers, grandmothers and average working stiffs merrily multitasking at 65 mph. Yet attempts to ban talking on a cell phone, or texting while driving are (amazingly) being met with opposition by many, including Republican lawmakers in my home state of Oklahoma.

Republican majority floor leader Tad Jones, in an interview, said he and his colleagues needed more evidence of the dangers before they considered restricting the freedom to talk while driving. “We’re concerned about going into the cellphone realm at this point,” he said, adding that he was not lobbied by any companies that make money from the use of devices in cars.

Republican Carl Wimmer, a state representative in Utah, has said “To me, the death of freedom is far worse than the risk of talking on the phone while driving. Why pick on cellphones?”

While we're at it, why pick on seatbelts? Or cigarettes? Or heroin? Or, (brace yourselves, Republicans) a-a-a-abortion?

• If you're dating, you'll need to accept the fact that your date's mobile phone is more important than you. I've seen countless young couples out on a dinner date, oblivious to each other while busily texting God knows who. It's a sad spectacle, and it only proves my theory that dating is not about love or affection — it's about properly fulfilling social mores and expectations to win the Grand Prize, a loveless contractual arrangement we fondly call "marriage." These "he-texts, she-texts" dates are the perfect setting for establishing compatibility with a spouse who will spend all your married days resenting you.

• Hooray – your clients now expect to reach you at all hours of the day / night / weekend. "Accessibility" has become a prerequisite for professional success. Not responding to emails in a timely fashion is now considered an grievous insult, tantamount to stealing from the till. Need some time away from it all? Take your next vacation at your peril. The wall that once separated your work life from your private life is now gone. What? Are you against progress? Enjoy!

• Working = reading through dozens and dozens of emails each day, searching for some lostl nugget of important information. Have you forgotten what your boss asked you to do about the Penske account? If you ask the question again, you'll appear stupid and lazy. No problem. Just spend the next 30 minutes shuffling through a backlog of old emails. May God help you if you've deleted an important message. Ask yourself: does this make us more productive?

The great and ironic meme of the post-Industrial age has been the notion of Progress Begets Regress. Picture life during the time of your great-grandparents. Are we happier today? Is our air cleaner? Do we eat healthier foods? Do we sleep more soundly?

Will some wise young people, not yet born, eventually question the folly of Digital Servitude? Will they eschew Blackberrys, refuse email, and cultivate a simple life, free from people texting "Wot R U doing?" while barreling down the road at 75 mph? Who will write the post-digital Foxfire Book?


We'll all gaze enviously at these enlightened souls who refuse to use a cell phone, ignore emails and take long walks in the woods. They breathe deeply. They don't respond to your text messages. They're not taking your calls. And you know what? They're far, far happier than you are.

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